Jesus the Judge - an Evangelistic Bible Talk

James Krieg | Aug 12th, 2013
A sneak preview of the talk I am about to give 2-4 times these two weeks as part of Jesus Week – ‘Meet the Real Jesus’ at Flinders Uni:

Text: Mark 8:27-38

The concept of God judging is not a palatable idea for many people. It’s the reason why some people reject all forms of religious belief altogether, saying, ‘I can’t believe in a God who will send me to Hell simply for not believing in Him,’ or, ‘God would be a moral monster if he demands that we meet such an unreachable standard, and then sends us to hell if we fail.’

Yet regardless of what intellectual conclusions we make, there is an undeniable reality that human beings have sense of justice, fairness, and an innate desire to see evil and wrongness corrected. If this were not the case, I would have no basis for rejecting or refuting the Christian belief in God as Judge. If I reject the idea of God because, in my view, God is unjust, I am betraying my implicit belief in and desire for truth and justice by saying God does not meet my standard of what is good and right and fair.

We all agree that justice is a good thing, especially when it impacts us directly; if we were to witness our own loved ones brutally killed in front of us, we would feel/know it to be a great travesty if the murderer was set free. We agree that it is right to be angry about the human rights abuses that happen in the world, and we feel a sense of satisfaction when dictators are toppled and criminals are captured, or even when we are simply vindicated and shown to be right when we have been falsely accused. Justice is in our bones, and you could argue that it is a foundation of civilised society.

So why do we get upset when we hear the idea that God will bring justice to this world through Jesus Christ? Why are we happy for human beings to carry out justice, but struggle with the idea of God doing so? Who is more qualified to bring about justice – a good and loving, all knowing God, or imperfect human beings with mixed motives and limited knowledge?

Mark 8:27-38 is a passage that can help us understand something of what it means for Jesus to be our judge.

Twice in this passage Jesus refers to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. This term comes from the Old Testament (The first part of the Bible), from a prophecy by the 4th century BC prophet Daniel. In a vision he saw God on his throne just like a judge in a courtroom; before him were all the nations and peoples of the world. A person whom he described as, ‘One like a Son of Man’ was brought directly into the presence of God, who gave him authority over all the nations of the earth, and all people worshipped him. This ‘Son of Man’ is essentially God’s representative; he rules with God’s full authority.

By using this title for himself, Jesus is claiming to be the one whom Daniel saw in his vision. At another time Jesus said that because he is God’s Son, God the Father has entrusted him with the role of judging the whole world; so each one of us will have to stand before Jesus and be assessed at to whether we meet God’s perfect standard.

This is what Jesus is talking about at the end of this passage when he says in verse 38:

‘Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

The word ashamed here does not just mean ‘embarrassed’ in the way that we might use it. It is a word that means being wrongly aligned, a bit like backing the losing football team, or  being loyal to the wrong side in a war. Jesus says that rejecting Him and his words now, will result in him rejecting us when he comes as judge.

So, what is it about Jesus and his words that is so important for us to not reject? We see this in the first section of the passage.

In verses 27-30 Jesus has asked his disciples who people say he is – and who they say he is. Jesus considers it important that people understand who he is and what his mission is. The public have some ideas, but when Peter says, ‘You are the Christ’, we know from other accounts of this event that Jesus commended him – his view was the right view. ‘The Christ’ means ‘God’s appointed King’ – the one who would set up God’s kingdom; he was promised to the Jewish people over 1000 years earlier, and they had been waiting for Him to arrive all this time. They knew that the Christ would be the king not just of their people, but of the whole world; that he would bring peace and justice to the world, and enable people to truly know and worship God.

This description may sound very similar to the description I just gave of the ‘Son of Man’, and that is because the titles ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of Man’ meant the same thing. They are speaking of the same person – and Jesus is this person.

However both the public and the disciples thought – wrongly – that when the Christ came, he would use military strength to set up his kingdom. That is why Jesus told his disciples not to tell people about him – because he knew the people might start a violent revolution.

Jesus goes on in verses 31-33 to explain how he will set up God’s kingdom: He would suffer, be killed, and rise again after 3 days. This does not sound like a great and powerful king, which is why Peter rebuked him. However he did not understand why Jesus had to die and rise again.

Any kingdom need two elements to be a true kingdom: a King, and citizens. A King without citizens is not really a king. So in order to be the King of God’s kingdom, Jesus must gather for himself those who will be citizens of His kingdom. However, there is one problem. There is not one human being who is worthy or qualified to be a citizen of his kingdom. The Bible tells us that all of humanity has rebelled against God – we have become God’s enemies. We have chosen not to live under God’s loving authority, but instead set ourselves up as the rulers of our own lives and of this world. This is what the Bible calls ‘Sin’. Sin is not primarily bad things we do, but an attitude in our hearts that says, ‘No’ to God. It is a rejection of the relationship with God that we have been created for. As a result, our lives are filled with actions and deeds that reflect this – things we call ‘sins’.

God is rightfully angry at this, because He is good and just and loving, and so He will not tolerate Sin. If we reject a relationship with Him and want nothing to do with Him, the fair punishment for this is Him rejecting us in the same way. And because this sin of rejecting God is so serious – it is essentially ‘cosmic treason’, the punishment must also be just as serious – being cut off from God and all his goodness, forever. And so, as we have seen already, those who reject (are ‘ashamed of’) God by rejecting His Son Jesus – will also be rejected.

Because the core problem of sin is a problem of the heart, we cannot fix this simply by trying to do good things or changing our behaviour. We need to be reconciled to God. The attitude of our heart that causes us to be under God’s anger needs to be dealt with; we owe God a massive debt, and it is a debt that we cannot pay or make up for. If a criminal is found guilty in a court of law, he cannot say to the judge, ‘Please let me off, because I feel really sorry for what I did,’ or ‘I shouldn’t go to prison because I promise to do good from now on.’ If a crime has been committed, the penalty must be paid, otherwise there would be no justice.

This is why Jesus said that he had to die. The penalty we deserve for our treason is death, and since we cannot pay it ourselves, Jesus, the Son of God, has paid it for us. All of God’s anger that was rightfully directed against us, was instead directed against Jesus in our place. And by rising from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that this penalty has been fully paid: the fact that Jesus is no longer dead means that the penalty of death has been paid!

What does this then mean for us right now?

God has given us the means by which we may be reconciled to Him, and by being reconciled, we may become citizens of His kingdom. Through trusting in Jesus – and not in ourselves – we may know with certainty that God has brought us back to Himself.

We see this in the next verse – 34.

Jesus tells people that they should ‘deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him’. He is describing here what in other places the Bible calls ‘repentance and faith’ – or ‘turning and trusting’.

To ‘deny ourselves’ means we recognise that there is nothing we can do to fix our broken relationship. The problem is just too big, and so we need to be prepared to call out to Jesus for Him to save us.

To ‘take up one’s cross’ was quite a shocking thing to say – as in that time and place only the worst criminals – murderers and traitors – were crucified. So it means that we recognise that we actually deserve to face the required punishment for our treason against God! It was not coincidence that God allowed Jesus to die in this way, as him being crucified was a picture of our own crime against Him. This is what ‘repentance’ means: to turn from where we are in our sin and rebellion – to say ‘I am wrong, and God is right!’

The third thing Jesus says is ‘follow me’. This is a picture of trusting. We would only follow someone wherever they go if we knew we could trust them – or rather, if we knew they could be trusted fully. To follow Jesus means to completely depend on him to bring us back to God the Father; to accept that His death and resurrection is the only way that we can come into His Kingdom, since it is the only thing that can fix our problem.

What is the result of this? What does all this mean for someone who turns and trusts in Jesus?

It means we will be citizens of God’s kingdom, with Jesus us our good, loving, fair and just ruler – the Judge of all humanity who loved us so much that He came to bear the judgement for us. What a wonderful person to have as our ruler! It means also that we will have hope – hope for ourselves that we will never be rejected or abandoned by a divine Father who loves us so greatly, and calls us to know Him personally; and hope for this whole universe, that Jesus is ruling over it in its entirety, and will one day return to gather us to be with him, and to renew this whole world and remove all that is evil, unjust, painful and sad. This is the kind of promise that Jesus makes for all who trust Him.

So, will you repent and trust in Jesus?